Facebook has become one of the hottest social media marketing channels utilized by brands, and the business of getting fans is booming. According to Webtrends, it is estimated that over 800 million Fans are on Facebook, making it a larger advertising opportunity than even Google. A study done by DDB and OpinionWay reported that customers buy 36% more from companies they have "Liked" on Facebook, getting those fan numbers up is undoubtedly on every brand's mind. Just what is the actual cost to snag each fan, and can companies bring a budget-minded approach to this necessary task? Here are some of the more common strategies for getting those coveted fans to your small business Facebook page, as well as what you can expect to shell out for such services.
The Bottom Dollar
The cost to catch a Facebook user and get them to hit the almighty "Like" button can vary wildly. Most reports average about a buck per user, although brands that aren't as easy to advertise can pay $1.20 or more for each new fan. Likewise, some companies have figured out how to slowly build a crowd from the community efforts they are already doing well; it isn't unusual to see costs of 15 cents or less per fan arising from the most popular promotions on Facebook.

There are two basic options for the brand hoping to grow their fan base:

Building Your Base In-House
Many businesses already have what it takes to develop a genuine conversation with their customers and potential clients via Facebook, and some are having success getting fans on their own. Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance shares his reasons for going without an outside agency: "First, it's simply not in our budget, and secondly, we feel we've done a pretty good job of creating a buzz around our Facebook page on our own." Schrage states that a lead writer maintains their Facebook page while ensuring the message is both creative and consistent with the Money Crashers brand – something that's important to building a loyal fan base.

Strategies that have worked well for Andrew's team include running giveaways for gifts as small as $15 in value and making sure that updates are valuable to readers. He reminds us that "fans are 41% more likely than non-fans to recommend a website to friends," something his service-based company depends on to get maximum exposure with a limited budget. Providing quality information that readers can use in their everyday lives is goal #1 for providing a good return on the time investment of Facebook.

Hiring an Outside Agency
One other popular choice for many companies looking to boost their fanbase without much fuss is to leave it to the "experts" and hire a social media agency or consultant to craft and post updates, as well as manage ad and promotional campaigns. Many businesses are happy with their decision to outsource, but the privilege of having an agency do the dirty work will come with a hefty price tag. In addition to the $1,000 - $5,000 bill for services that promise to "get thousands of fans," there is some risk for businesses. Andrew explains that, in addition to charging $1 or more per fan acquired, most social media companies require payment in advance, and services vary from agency to agency. Even if you don't get the desired result, it may be next to impossible to get that large deposit back.

The best way to ensure that the money paid to a social media professional is cash well-spent, is to do a little digging into the processes behind the promise for more fans. Ask questions regarding preapproval of ads and promotion, the market segment that guaranteed fans will come from, and policies on the return of deposit if not fully satisfied with services. If anything strikes you as alarming, or the agency is not willing to work with you, it may be best to walk away.

The Bottom Line
Finally, while it's tempting to enter the race for fans for no other reason than to look good, avoid bulking up numbers for the sake of perceived growth. Loyal fans that are likely to buy your product and say great things about your company are worth far more than $1. Finding these fans takes time and some nurturing.

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